Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, a match made . . . NOT in heaven

". . . Are the Knicks set up better now to become an NBA champion than LeBron and them?"

—Mike Lupica

New York Daily News

March 10, 2011

I don't think we're in Fantasyland anymore, Toto.

It will obviously take a while for Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony . . . like until the end of time.

Not that their inability to run Coach Mike D'Antoni's offense should remain an issue since you can measure the rest of his stay with an egg timer . . . not that he'll mind, having fought this deal.

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Amid the dismay at their 1-9 free fall, Boston Coach Doc Rivers arrived just in time to provide perspective, assuring everyone things would work out.

"Hopefully, two or three years," Doc said, laughing.

It's not so funny a few blocks away in the NBA offices, with its flagship franchise a spectacle again.

After two seasons under Donnie Walsh . . . hired at Commissioner David Stern's urging . . . the Knicks had Stoudemire and a young playoff-bound team with the ability to create two maximum slots in 2012 for Chris Paul, Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard.

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Something like that still may happen, but with Melo, Amare and, say, CP3, who would be pretty good.

Ask Patrick Ewing what will happen with raised expectations and prices hiked 49% —- announced shortly after the trade — if no titles follow.

Everywhere else, it's a riot watching the Knicks fall over themselves like circus clowns climbing out of that little car and their hip fans in shock.

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Anyone who doesn't know how hip Knicks fans are hasn't asked one.

"I think there's a basketball smugness about New York, as New York being the basketball Mecca," WFAN's Mike Francesa once told me for a book about Pat Riley.

"As far as basketball, the city game, played like the great Knick teams under Red Holzman with Sen. Bill Bradley and [Walt] Frazier and [Earl] Monroe and [Willis] Reed . . . that kind of chic way to play, the smart sophisticated way to play, that New York has a patent on that — oh yeah, I think New York thinks that."

Apparently, a new offensive vogue replaced the old chic defensive mind-set.

Pundits are just pundits. The New York Times' Nate Silver, a genius number cruncher who ventures from politics to sports (and got me through the 2008 election), concluded the deal wasn't risky, "seeming to lock the Knicks in to roughly 50 wins."

True as that may be, it doesn't go far enough.

In the NBA, investing four seasons and such vast resources — New York glamour, Amare, young team, two max slots that took two seasons to create — for 50 wins is called "failure."

Then there was Bill Simmons' historical perspective, a.k.a. the Headline Rule:

The team that gets the headline player wins.

This is classically true since they're usually fire sales — as this was until Knicks Chairman James Dolan offered three starters and a 7-foot rookie.

In typical style, Simmons gave "people who don't realize that Carmelo is a legitimate superstar" an "F-minus-minus."

Darn, there goes my grade-point average.

Punditry notwithstanding, the world doesn't run according to mathematical or historical determinism.

Every 20-point scorer with a big backside isn't a star (a.k.a. the Mark Aguirre-Tracy McGrady-Vince Carter Rule).

Assuming that victorious playoff series measure impact, here are some per-season ratios.

2.15 Kobe Bryant overall

1.78 Shaquille O'Neal overall

1.71 LeBron James

1.66 Tim Duncan

1.60 Kobe without Shaq

1.20 Shaq without Kobe

1.00 Dwight Howard

.87 Dwyane Wade

.82 Dirk Nowitzki

.80 Deron Williams

.46 Allen Iverson

.29 Carmelo Anthony

I didn't have the heart to put in Stoudemire's .63 since he had Steve Nash . . . even if Anthony's two wins came alongside Chauncey Billups, who's no slug.

As far as living up to the moment, which made Michael Jordan Michael Jordan and Kobe Kobe . . .

When the Lakers swept the Anthony-Allen Iverson Nuggets in the first round in 2008, Iverson was the standup guy who always came to the interview room

Melo shot five for 22 in the pivotal Game 3 and said his team "quit," setting it up for its Game 4 termination.

If Anthony is older, it didn't keep him from torpedoing a better team than the one he joined.

Until then, New York was in Full Fawning Mode before Stoudemire, as when he and Vogue editor Anna Wintour — the inspiration for Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada" — sat on the runway at the Tommy Hilfiger show, planning an article about him.

Anthony now leads Knicks scorers at 26.3 . . . in no small part because he won't throw the ball inside . . . with everyone calling them "Melo's team."

Meanwhile, Amare dropped to 19.5 in March out of fatigue, pique or both. Said D'Antoni, canceling a string of practices: "Psychologically, he could use a little break."

Or their old team back.

Who'd have imagined two high-maintenance attention-seeking post-adolescents wouldn't fit?

Oh yeah, everyone but Dolan, Knicks fans, et al.

At least Anthony will know to be careful what he wishes for next time.

Right now, it's headed his way, carrying torches and pitchforks.

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